National Archives backs off plan to destroy CIA emails

The National Archives and Records Administration is taking a second look at the CIA’s proposal to delete its employees' emails after they leave the agency.

The record-keeping agency “intends to reassess” the proposal to destroy old emails of all but 22 top officials at the spy agency, chief records officer Paul Wester wrote to the agency last week.


Citing concerns from top congressional overseers and transparency advocates, “we are concerned about the scope of the proposed schedule and the proposed retention periods,” Wester wrote in the letter, which was unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists’s project on government secrecy on Wednesday.

The National Archives had tentatively backed the agency’s proposal to destroy “non-senior” staffers’ emails three years after they leave the agency “or when no longer needed.” At the time, the records agency said that any important communications will likely exist in other formats, which will be catalogued for a permanent record.

That proposal quickly came under fire.

The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week told the National Archives that the CIA's plan “could allow the destruction of crucial documentary evidence” necessary for the public as well as the spy agency’s congressional overseers.

In his letter, which was sent just a day after lawmakers weighed in, Wester told the CIA that his agency would work with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to discuss how the CIA’s plan impacted other intelligence agencies.